Architecting for evolvability

The Darwin project ran from 2005 until 2010.

This is an archived page.

Project motivation and objective

Most infrastructure systems as we know them today, such as the power network, the telephone network, the TV broadcast infrastructure and the Internet, evolved from rather primitive systems with limited scope into highly advanced global systems that in a number of aspects still carry and sometimes suffer from the choices made at the conception of the systems. Evolving these systems to cope with the ever changing market demands requires careful designs and deep understanding of the systems.

System evolvability is a system's ability to withstand changes to its requirements, environment and implementation technologies. The need for greater systems evolvability is becoming recognized, especially in the engineering of computer based systems, where the development, commissioning and replacement of large systems is highly resource intensive. Despite this need, there are no formal means for evaluating the evolvability of a system and thus no means of proving that one system is more evolvable than another. The Darwin project recognized this and aimed to provide methods and tools that will lead to the design of high evolvable systems.

Industrial case - professional medical electronics - MRI scanners

We have chosen the industrial sector of high end medical systems, specifically that of MRI scanners, to achieve our goals. MRI scanner technology is relatively young and is increasing in popularity as products become more powerful and effective for clinical diagnosis and therapy in many areas. Today's MRI scanners are complex systems that contain about 8.000.000 Lines of Code (LoC) which are developed and maintained by many people all around the world. We see several trends in these machines (which apply to embedded systems in general) emerging:

  • Complexity increase: Solutions in response to market demands for new operating features, higher performance, greater ease of use, improved accountability and safety have been increasing fast in recent years and these are driving an increase in system complexity

  • Time to Market pressures: The innovation cycle of products is decreasing continuously. Product manufacturers are under severe pressure to reduce product costs, reduce development costs - and yet remain technologically one step ahead of the competition

  • Open Systems. The expectation of many customers is that these products can be connected to a variety of complimentary products and systems probably from different manufacturers. The product is increasingly being seen as a "function" within a much larger workflow or process. The ability to communicate and interface using open standards is essential.

Darwin objective

Darwin had the objective to develop architectures, methods and tools for optimizing system evolvability. i.e. the ability of a system to evolve easily in the face of changing requirements, resulting in a faster time to market for product iterations whilst maximizing technology reuse.

Darwin organization

A consortium of industrial and academic partners has been set up to carry out the Darwin project with ESI having the project management responsibility. The partners were Philips Healthcare - MR division (carrying industrial partner), Philips Research, Delft University of Technology, Eindhoven University of Technology, University of Groningen, University of Twente, and the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. For the majority of their project time, the researchers were co-located at the ESI facilities in Eindhoven and during key experimental phases of the project at the Philips Healthcare facilities in Best. The project was partly funded by the Dutch Government.

The project ran from October 2005 to September 2010.


The Darwin publications can be found on the publications page; search for darwin